Should Cancer Patients Exercise?

Oncology care professionals generally do recommend that cancer patients enjoy light exercise. In this case, weight maintenance is the goal, not weight loss. Even if a cancer patient was actively working to lose weight prior to the diagnosis, the oncologist would likely prefer that he or she focus only on maintaining weight during treatment. The oncologist may also recommend that cancer patients work with a functional medicine specialist, such as Dr. Briones in Mt. Kisco and the surrounding Westchester County. Functional medicine specialists can help cancer patients support overall wellness.

Before Exercising During Treatment

No cancer patient should exercise unless it’s been approved by the oncologist. The doctor may refer the patient to a physical therapist, who can design a safe and effective workout program tailored to the patient’s needs. Usually, cancer patients who are approved to exercise will be advised to stick to no more than a moderate-intensity workout, such as brisk walking. Additionally, cancer patients should understand the following precautions before starting a workout program. young woman meditating in the comfort of her home

  • Avoid public gyms when white blood cell counts are low.
  • Avoid exercising with persistent nausea and vomiting.
  • Avoid exercising when potassium and sodium levels are abnormal.
  • Avoid exercising with a low red blood cell count.
  • Talk to the doctor before exercising at a vigorous intensity.
  • Talk to the doctor before substantially changing an approved exercise plan.
  • Enjoy exercise that has a very low risk of falls.

Exercising During Treatment

Exercising during cancer treatment can be beneficial for patients, as it can:

  • Boost energy levels
  • Improve mood
  • Help with stress management
  • Encourage social connections
  • Reduce the risk of blood clots
  • Improve balance

However, patients should take care not to get overly enthusiastic with their workout regimen. The goal isn’t to train for a marathon, but rather to improve quality of life. It’s advisable to slow down and rest when fatigue sets in.

Exercising During Remission

According to conventional wisdom, cancer patients primarily need to worry about not losing too much weight. But actually, some chemotherapy drugs can cause weight gain, not loss, especially chemo drugs used to treat breast cancer. Once patients have achieved remission, they might once again join a weight loss program. Careful nutrition planning is recommended to support optimum health. Patients in remission are usually encouraged to follow an exercise program that includes strength training, since cancer treatment often leads to a loss of muscle tone.